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Blanton Claims Historic Run In Congressional Loss

August 5, 1988

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) _ Former Gov. Ray Blanton’s bid for Congress ended in a resounding primary defeat, but he said the campaign bolstered his self-esteem after it was battered by two years in federal prison for fraud and extortion.

Blanton came in a distant third Thursday in a four-man race for the Democratic nomination for western Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District, garnering only 7,295 votes, or 11 percent of the vote.

The winner, state Rep. John Tanner of Union City, collected 45,424 votes, or 66 percent.

″I have been to the depths of despair where most people would have said, ’I give up,‴ Blanton, 58, told 20 supporters in a hotel room big enough to hold 10 times as many people.

But he said he often was greeted on the campaign trail by people who thanked him for his years in public office.

″Just to have these people express their faith in me has meant more to me than you can imagine,″ he said. ″It has meant more than dollars.″

Blanton, governor from 1975 to 1979, was convicted in 1981 of mail fraud, extortion and conspiracy in a scheme to sell state liquor licenses while in office.

The mail fraud conviction was thrown out on a legal technicality after his release from prison, and he is appealing the other charges. A state court restored his citizenship rights last year.

Blanton, who represented Tennessee’s old 7th District in Congress from 1967 to 1972, directed a state administration plagued by scandal.

Two Blanton aides went to prison in a ″clemency-for-cash″ scandal centered on allegations that prison inmates could buy their way to freedom.

Blanton was never charged in the that investigation, but his successor, Republican Lamar Alexander, took the oath of office three days ahead of schedule amid reports Blanton planned to free prison inmates involved in the ″clemency-for-cash″ case.

Blanton declined Thursday to say if he had any political plans, and refused to speculate on why he lost the 8th District race.

The other losers were Jackson Mayor Robert Conger, who had 10,348 votes, or 15 percent, and lawyer Ivy Scarbrough, with 5,275 votes, or 8 percent.

The race is to replace Democratic Rep. Ed Jones, who is retiring after 19 years in office. Jones supported Tanner.

In the Republican 8th District race, lawyer Ed Bryant of Jackson came from behind to defeat Richard Jacobs, national chairman of the Young Republicans Federation, and win the right to meet Tanner in the general election Nov. 8.

Bryant got 7,257 votes, or 57 percent to 4,578, or 36 percent, for Jacobs. Memphis businessman Dan Campbell trailed with 965 votes or 8 percent.

For the Senate, incumbent Democrat James R. Sasser Jr., seeking his third six-year term, had no primary opposition.

In the GOP’s Senate primary, lawyer Bill Andersen, whose law firm includes former Sen. Howard Baker as a partner, beat party activist Alice Algood and lawyer Hubert Patty for the chance to oppose Sasser in November.

With 2,360 of the state’s 2,391 precincts reporting, Andersen had 73 percent, or 112,560 votes, to 22 percent, or 33,673, for Mrs. Algood.

In the 2nd District, where Republican Rep. John J. Duncan died June 21, his son, John J. Duncan Jr. of Knoxville easily won the nomination, beating Dr. Robert Proffitt.

Dudley Taylor, a former state revenue commissioner, won the Democratic primary in the 2nd District, defeating two opponents.

U.S. Reps. Marilyn Lloyd of Chattanooga and Harold Ford of Memphis easily won renomination as expected in Democratic primaries in the 3rd and 9th districts, respectively. Ms. Lloyd defeated two political newcomers, while Ford beat businessman Mark Flanagan, who lost to Ford for the eighth time in a row.

Ford has been indicted on federal bank fraud charges, but no trial date has been set. He said it has not affected his campaign.

In the 7th District, Democrat Lloyd Bloodworth won the right to challenge Republican Rep. Don Sundquist.

Five of Tennessee’s nine U.S. representatives had no primary opposition. Two, Reps. Jim Cooper of the 4th District and Bob Clement of the 5th, also have no opponents in November.

Others without primary opposition were Republican James Quillen of the 1st District, Democrat Bart Gordon of the 6th, and Sundquist.

Democrat Sidney Smith, a retiree, was unopposed in his bid to challenge Quillen. Chemical engineer Wallace Embry had no opponents for GOP nomination to take on Gordon. Hamilton County Commissioner Harold Coker faced no contest in getting the Republican nomination for the 3rd District seat now held by Ms. Lloyd.

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