NYT op-ed: Bredesen staff holding ashes of burned 1995 Blackburn expense account

Excerpt from a New York Times op-ed piece (written by Steve Cavendish, former editor of the Nashville Scene):

To understand how Phil Bredesen, a former Democratic governor of Tennessee, has a chance of winning this year’s race to replace Bob Corker as the junior senator from this deep-red state, it helps to know a story making the rounds in Nashville about his likely Republican opponent, Representative Marsha Blackburn.

After returning from a 1995 trip to Los Angeles to drum up support for the Tennessee film industry, Ms. Blackburn, the executive director of the state’s Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, submitted her expense receipts to the office of the Republican governor, Don Sundquist.

The office sent them back, saying that a limousine was inappropriate for a state official. Ms. Blackburn said she didn’t hire a limo, but paid the charges; she then set the receipts on fire and sent the ashes to her superiors with a note: “Copy of L.A. expense report as requested!”

The story would remain a fun bit of political lore, save for one detail: Today those ashes are in the care of a Bredesen staffer. Someone in Mr. Sundquist’s circle saved them, waiting for a chance to pass them along to the right person with a pointed message: There are a lot of Republicans waiting to see Marsha Blackburn fall.

Ms. Blackburn is a Tea Party and Trump stalwart, as are many Tennessee voters. She also represents a type of conservatism that may be peaking in some parts of the South: combative, inflexible and more interested in picking fights than actually governing. An aggregate of recent polls have Mr. Bredesen leading her by 5 percent.

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