Iraq War veteran and attorney James Mackler announced Sunday that he will be running for the United States Senate in 2018, making him the first Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Bob Corker.
In a video announcement, Mackler establishes his campaign as one for the people, and not partisan politics, Wall Street, or the congressional incumbents who have failed to deliver on their promises. Appealing to both Trump supporters and those who protested Trump – even Bernie Sanders supporters, the 44-year-old veteran says that he will advocate for the everyday American who is frustrated about jobs being shipped overseas and a system that only works for those at the top.
Branding himself as a patriot, a family man, a man of faith, and a political outsider, Mackler attacks Corker for his opportunism, bringing up the numerous times Corker has discussed taking offices other than the Senate – including VP and Secretary of State to Donald Trump. Mackler asks: “How about the job you have, Senator?”
Mackler joined the United States Army after 9/11, serving as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, where he “shared airspace with drones.” He believes that his military background is a valuable asset, particularly to helping break the partisan deadlock in Washington. “As a veteran, I know first-hand the strength of teamwork, cooperation, and the benefits of diversity to accomplish even the most difficult mission.”
Following his time in the army, Mackler worked as an attorney specializing in drone law. His LinkedIn bio reads:
I am the founder of the premier Unmanned Systems (Drone) Legal Practice. I advise governments, individuals, and corporations on managing the risks and opportunities associated with the commercial use of drones.
I also lead complex criminal litigation, regulatory compliance, and assist corporate clients in responding to law enforcement investigations.
My law practice leverages my extensive experience in civilian and military aviation including a combat deployment as an assault helicopter pilot.
The last time Tennessee elected a non-incumbent Democrat to the Senate was 1984. Tennessee Democrats have struggled to find formidable candidates, with Bob Corker winning re-election in 2012 by almost 35 points and Senator Lamar Alexander winning re-election in 2014 by over 30 points. The situation has been so desperate that the Tennessee Democrat Party outright disavowed 2012 candidate Mark E. Clayton. They wrote in an official statement:
Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write-in a candidate of their choice in November.
But can James Mackler finally take back a Senate seat for Tennessee Democrats? With no polling available yet, it’s not very clear. But Mackler is clearly trying to capitalize on the anti-establishment sentiment that rose to the forefront of the political scene last year through the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And while Sanders lost by a miserable 33.62 points in the Democratic primary in Tennessee, Trump won the state by a massive 26 points in November.
Then again, the “political outsider” narrative might not mean all that much given that the incumbent senators in Tennessee aren’t actually unpopular. A recent Morning Consult poll showed Corker with a 57% approval rating with his constituents, up from 51% in September 2016. A lot can happen between now and the 2018 midterms, but at the moment, the 64-year-old junior senator doesn’t seem to have much reason for concern.
The question right now really comes down to how much energy Democrats are willing to invest in Mackler, or whoever the Tennessee Democratic Senate nominee may be. National Democratic organizations have already expressed that they will be focusing on defending the 10 Democratic senators running for re-election in states Donald Trump won, so it’s unlikely that the deep red state of Tennessee will be a priority of theirs. It’s up to grassroots political activists in Tennessee to ensure that Corker doesn’t go without a legitimate challenge next year.