Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, said Friday that he would support Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, after weeks of demurring and being attacked by Republicans over his equivocation.
In a statement released as senators cast a procedural vote Friday to advance President Trump’s nominee, Bredesen said he believed that Kavanaugh has the qualifications, ethics and temperament to become a justice on the nation’s high court.
He called Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford a “heroine” who “has brought forcefully into the national conversation the many barriers women face in reporting and dealing with sexual harassment and assault.”
“I was disgusted by the treatment she received at the hands of the Senate and am determined to help bring about a fairer and far more respectful treatment of these issues,” Bredesen’s statement said.
Bredesen, a popular former Tennessee governor, is locked in a tight race with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a six-term congresswoman and Trump ally. Bredesen is running on a moderate platform with a centrist message in an effort to appeal to moderate Republicans and independents.
Democratic outside groups were divided in their reactions to Bredesen’s statement.
Senate Majority PAC and Majority Forward, the main outside groups working to elect Democrats to the Senate that has spent severa million dollars supporting Bredesen, said on Friday they will continue their work to get Bredesen elected.
Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, had announced it would withhold support for candidates supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The group has not spent money in the Tennessee race, and any option to do so is now off the table, a spokesman said Friday.
Bredesen said he was prepared to say “yes” to Kavanaugh’s nomination before Ford’s allegations.
“While the subsequent events make it a much closer call, and I am missing key pieces of information that a sitting Senator has, I’m still a ‘yes,’ ” he said.
His previous answers to the question were not nearly as definitive as his statement Friday.
Bredesen did not give a firm answer last week at his first debate with Blackburn when he was asked whether he would support Kavanaugh given the information available at the time. Asked about it at a voter forum Monday, he said he would wait for the FBI investigation to be completed until he made his decision — an answer that was met with boos from the crowd.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, Bredesen said he was not waiting on any specific information on Kavanaugh from the FBI investigation, but that he wanted more information about the judge’s temperament and personal history that could inform his stance.
“Any president has the right to name or nominate or appoint justices with whom he’s in philosophical agreement. . . . I certainly would have wanted [more information] once questions came up about his behavior, irrespective of where they came from,” he told The Post.
“This is a difficult one, obviously,” Bredesen added.
When asked whether Kavanaugh’s combative behavior at last week’s Senate hearing raised questions about his temperament that would render him unfit for the role, Bredesen declined to give a definitive answer but said, “It certainly would be something I would note.”
Bredesen’s reluctance to give a definitive answer on Kavanaugh had left him open to attacks from Republicans, who saw an opening to drive up support for Blackburn. She had said early on that she would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Recent polls show Republican voters in Tennessee and nationally are becoming more galvanized amid the bruising confirmation battle over the nomination.
On Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized Bredesen over his delay in making a decision.
“Phony Phil’s indecisive wavering back and forth should be a red flag for Tennessee voters who want a Senator they can rely on in Washington,” NRSC spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement. “Instead of proudly standing with a majority of Tennesseans who wanted to see President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee confirmed from the outset, Bredesen took political cover and only emerged when the final result was all but confirmed. Tennessee voters deserve better.”