Blackburn mistakenly blames Bredesen for illegal alien driver licenses; Democrats bash Blackburn

In a speech to Carter County Republicans, U.S.  Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn erroneously declared that her presumptive Democratic opponent, Phil Bredesen, “gave driver licenses to illegal aliens” when he was governor, reports the Johnson City Press. Democrats are using the remark to bash Blackburn.

In fact, it was Republican Gov. Don Sundquist who signed House Bill 983 into law on May 3, 2001, which allowed illegal immigrants to get actual driver’s licenses in Tennessee. Gubernatorial candidates Beth Harwell and Diane Black were among the 69 House members who voted in support of the measure. Blackburn was among the nine senators who voted no.

Tennessee had been issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants for two years before Bredesen entered office as governor in 2003.

… In July 2004, Bredesen actually proposed legislation that ended the practice of issuing state driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants for public safety and homeland security reasons.

Under the legislation, immigrants who could not establish a legal presence in the U.S. could obtain a new “certificate for driving,” which could be used for driving but not for identification purposes, such as boarding a plane or purchasing a gun.

House Bill 3486 passed overwhelmingly 92-2-1 in the House and 32-0 in the Senate, with Black, Harwell, former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and current Lt. Gov. Randy McNally voting in support. Blackburn was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives at that time.

However, in 2006, Tennessee ended its policy of issuing “driving certificates” after the governor’s office was informed that immigrants were traveling from other states to get the certificates using forged documents.

“At this point it just seems that we’ve got this very … serious problem, and we really felt that the appropriate thing to do was to suspend this program,” Bob Corney, then-spokesman for Gov. Bredesen, told the Los Angeles Times. (Note: Corney is currently manager of Bredesen’s Senate campaign.)

The Press article was posted Saturday – the Blackburn speech at Elizabethton was on Thursday — and includes this emailed comment Friday from Alyssa Hansen, the Bredesen campaign press secretary.

“It’s clear that Governor Bredesen’s message of working together to get things done is resonating with voters throughout the state who are tired of the hyper-partisan yelling and finger-pointing… The contrast between the Senate candidates is increasingly clear — Tennessee voters can pick someone who’s used to causing gridlock as a Congresswoman for over the past 15 years she’s been in Washington — or they can hire someone who has a proven track record of working across the aisle to get things done for all Tennesseans.”

After the article appeared, Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Mark Brown emailed a commentary to media including this line:

“Marsha Blackburn’s ham-handed attacks on Phil Bredesen, over an issue that Don Sundquist created and Diane Black supported at every step of the way, ring hollow to voters. All the “Blackburn Boomerang” does is hurt her own friends — and in the process muddies the Republican gubernatorial primary and gives ammunition to Black’s opponents. We love the Blackburn Boomerang and hope she keeps throwing it.”

Note: The Elizabethton Star report on Blackburn’s speech doesn’t mention the drivers’ license remark. It does include this:

During her campaign, Blackburn said many people have asked her why she would want to run for the Senate when it is in the shape it’s in.

“That is exactly why,” Blackburn said is her response to that question. “It is totally dysfunctional and it is definitely in need of some conservative change.”

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