Former state Rep. Jimmy Matlock tells Knoxville News Sentinel that he’ll decide in the next three weeks if he’ll challenge the man who defeated him in the 2018 Republican primary, Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett, in the Aug. 1 nomination contest.
“He’s gotten to a point where he’s not going to be able to bring any help to the district because he’s alienated the colleagues he works with in D.C.,” Matlock said of Burchett, who beat him 48-36 six years ago.
While Matlock didn’t specifically reference the incident, the three-term congressman was one of the eight Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy’s speakership in October. Burchett attracted national attention again the following month when he accused McCarthy of elbowing him to deliver a “clean shot to the kidneys,” only to then run off. The ex-speaker told CNN in response, “I didn’t shove or elbow him. It’s a tight hallway.” He said later, “If I kidney punched someone, they would be on the ground.”
McCarthy resigned from the House just weeks later, but Burchett continues to make trouble for his colleagues. He insisted to a far-right radio host last month that “powerful people” who “write the big checks” get their way in Congress by using sex to blackmail members ahead of major votes.
“Some well-dressed person comes out and whispers in your ear, ‘Hey, man, there’s tapes out on you,'” Burchett claimed. “Or, ‘Were you in a motel room or whatever with whoever?’ And then you’re like, ‘Uh-oh.’ And they say, ‘You really ought not be voting for this thing.'” The congressman has not supplied any evidence to back up these salacious charges.
Political observers have speculated that the newly unemployed McCarthy, who remains close with influential conservative donors, might embark on a “revenge tour” to deny renomination to his intraparty enemies. Matlock himself told the News Sentinel, “I’ve talked to those who say they want to invest in the campaign,” though he didn’t provide any information about their identities or connections.
Tennessee’s 2nd District, which includes Knoxville, favored Donald Trump 64-34, and Republicans have held it continuously since just after the Civil War. Knox County has been represented by a member of the nativist Know Nothing Party more recently than a Democrat, with William Henry Sneed taking it during President Franklin Pierce’s 1854 midterm.