Bob Corker - 2006 Senate Campaign

2006 Senate Campaign

In 2004, Corker announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by incumbent Republican Senator Bill Frist, who had announced that he would not run for reelection. In the Republican primary election, he ran against two former congressmen, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. Both of his opponents ran as strong conservatives, denouncing Corker as a moderate and eventually labelling him a leftist. In the course of his primary campaign, Corker spent $4.2 million on television advertising, especially in the western portion of the state, where he was relatively unknown before the primary. In the August primary election, he won with 48% of the vote over Bryant's 34% and Hilleary's 17%.

For the general election campaign, his Democratic opponent, Harold Ford, Jr., challenged Corker to seven televised debates across the state. In response, Corker said he would debate Ford, though he did not agree to seven debates. The two candidates eventually participated in three televised debates: in Memphis on October 7, in Chattanooga on October 10, and in Nashville on October 28.

The race between Ford and Corker was described as "among the most competitive and nasty" in the country. In October 2006, as polls indicated that Ford maintained a slight lead over Corker, the Republican National Committee ran a controversial television advertisement attacking Ford. In the 30-second ad, sound bites of "people in the street" pronouncing Ford wrong for Tennessee were interspersed with two shots of a white woman animatedly recalling meeting Ford—who is African-American and was unmarried at the time—at "the Playboy party". The ad concludes with this woman leeringly inviting Ford to phone her. The ad was denounced by many people as racist, including former Republican Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who called it "a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment." Corker subsequently pulled ahead in the polls, and went on to win the election by less than three percentage points. He was the only new Republican Senator in the 110th Congress.

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