Post Politics: The subversive nature of Stacey Campfield

Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 11:45pm

Ever since his first victory in 2004, Tennessee’s political players have plotted to rid their world of Republican state Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville.

Democrats don’t like him for obvious reasons: He’s an unabashed archconservative unafraid of ideological combat.

Republicans have more selfish reasons. They worry about their brand and the damage inflicted by Campfield’s frequent antics in the legislature.

Whether it is demanding entrée to the black caucus or championing the rights of men to terminate their parental obligations, Campfield raises uncomfortable issues. He helps paint all Republicans as wild reactionary flakes and forces them to defend the indefensible.

While Campfield has usually won his elections by healthy margins, he is always contested. He raises little money and spends little. He lives off the land. Casual observers wonder how he keeps his seat.

But it’s a simple formula, really. He works hard. Shoe leather and elbow grease — it’s that simple.

Campfield straight up knocks on almost every door in his district. Even Democratic operatives who are repelled by him have remarked admiringly about how tirelessly he works.

Be that as it may, Campfield — who is now looking for a promotion to the state Senate — remains a marked man.

Just last week, a potential GOP opponent, Ellen Adcock, told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “I’m not doing anything that helps Stacey’s chances. He might be tolerated as a representative, but this community should not elect him as a senator.”

Her disgust is palpable, but her sentiments are widely shared within political circles.

In fact, to the state’s political insiders, Campfield is like an insect that refuses to die no matter how hard they grind it into the pavement.

As one of 99 state representatives, most of whom yield proportionally very little power, Campfield offers much-needed comic relief.

As one of 33 senators, each of whom is powerful simply by their membership in the body, he wouldn’t be so funny. A Sen. Campfield would be almost too much to take.

His behavior at the University of Tennessee’s Halloween football game hasn’t helped. Here was a grown man in his 40s squatting in someone else’s seat wearing a contraband Halloween mask and talking trash to the police. Even his few friends now may desert him.

But Campfield isn’t without appealing characteristics. He is the quintessential underdog.

Whatever you may think of his politics, he comes at them authentically. Campfield is not an operator or a deal-cutter. He isn’t slick. He is who he is.

His principles may be wrong, but his politics are immaculate. There is something strangely poetic about how he campaigns. Getting out with the people and simply asking for their votes rather than bombarding them with fancy ads while running afoul of both parties’ establishments? How can you not admire that a little?

How can you not admire the testicular fortitude it takes to run for the Senate without the blessing of party fathers, to extend his brand of retail politics to the point of disadvantage?

Because, while he’ll almost certainly try, it’s virtually impossible to knock on every door in a Senate district. And that Knoxville district, while no liberal enclave, is no ultraconservative bastion either. He is taking a profound risk, the kind of potentially career-ending gamble that politicians tend to avoid.

If Campfield beats the odds and the forces arrayed against him, it might hurt the Republican Party’s attempts to cultivate a more moderate, pragmatic image. But there would be something comfortingly subversive about an underfunded maverick giving a figurative obscene gesture to the establishments of both political parties by winning a state Senate seat the Powers That Be don’t want him to have.

That is, as long as the maverick wasn’t Stacey Campfield.

Kleinheider is’s political blogger. Visit him at

12 Comments on this post:

By: RoyceEBurrageJR on 12/14/09 at 7:54

Let's see, why would Stacey Campfield be elected to the Tennessee Senate ...

Could it be honesty, integrity, character?

Could it be that he more closely represents the common person on the street who has to work for a living instead of standing around with a hand out?

Or could it be that he refuses to compromise on principle.

Those "powers that be" referred to above don't like people like him much. And yes, that should be lower case. Proper nouns they are not.

By: Dragon on 12/14/09 at 7:57

A.C. Kleinheider, tell us how you REALLY feel.

Archconservative, wild reactionary flakes, defend the indefensible, Democratic operatives are repelled, disgust is palpable, an insect that refuses to die, wrong principles, etc.

Yes, this "subversive" must be stopped. Arrest and imprisonment may be the only option.

By: frank brown on 12/14/09 at 8:13

I was not aware of this fellow Stacy "Campfield until this article. I just wish there were more like him.

By: vechester on 12/14/09 at 8:22

As a conservative, I continue to be disgusted by media hacks telling me that my principles, and the elected officials that represent them, need to be moderated. The liberal left loves a moderate conservative. They are mushy on core conservative principles and will sell out their constituency in a capitol hill minute. It's always a liberal who is telling conservatives how we need to moderate our positions. That's just so much BS!

Kleinheider may be admiring the underdog a bit, but his opinion of a solid conservative is telling.

By: Dragon on 12/14/09 at 8:27

Format fix attempt.

By: naed on 12/14/09 at 9:03

"ideological combat" is not what we elect Representatives to wage - or Senators for that matter. The alleged "public servants" that hold offices in this city, state and country are too eager to bring their personal beliefs to office with the idea of foisting these on the voting public. It's a public office, the "public servants" should be doing what the public wants, not pushing the agendas of a vocal minority.
The frat-house mentality of the majority of the voting public sickens me and leaves me wondering if anything substantial can ever be achieved amid the bickering and "single issue" lunacy that usually prevails. In a world desperately in need of solutions, this very paper and most of it's readers are a big part of the problem

By: vechester on 12/14/09 at 9:30

Naed, "ideological discussion" is the very thing we need. We use this to define our vision of what our government should and should not be. For instance, I believe that the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" quote found in our Declaration of Independence applies to the unborn as well. It is an issue I cannot set aside and ignore. It does not make me a single-issue voter, but it is a high priority when I am considering someone to represent my views. Another issue is "limited government", a restraint on just how much our government can do to the governed.

Ideological combat, no. Ideological discussion, yes! It is the very basis of our 1st Amendment rights that we all enjoy. If this paper and its readers are the problem, then don't read it. Its that simple.

By: pswindle on 12/14/09 at 9:39

He is just another example where TN is headed. A state that is full of extremes, which is slowly destroying the state. We soon will be the laughing stock of the country, and rightly so.

By: vechester on 12/14/09 at 11:15

Yeah, why can't we all just get along while compromising everything we believe in? Except it's the conservatives that expected to moderate their opinions. You never hear of a liberal asked to be more moderate.

Lincoln probably would have been considered extreme by the Democrats of his time; but he knew in his principled heart that slavery was wrong and he set out to correct it. Had he been a moderate, he would have gone along with the Dred Scott decision and allowed slave states to continue slavery.

No thanks on moderation if it means giving up my principles.

By: TonyGottlieb on 12/14/09 at 1:23

Campfield turns out to be correct on so many issues the, " I told you so'es," are becoming redundant.
What they aren't seeing is that Campfield is actually in the the center of the Republican platform and the critics are Liberals.

By: Donna Locke on 12/14/09 at 1:56

Unfair hit piece.

"In a world of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

By: LNER4472 on 12/14/09 at 2:29

Please tell me:

In exactly what manner is legislation that gives men the option to sue to terminate child support payments to children THAT ARE NOT THEIR BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN in the first place "championing the rights of men to terminate their parental obligations"?????

I quote from the article:

"The House approved today legislation sponsored by Rep. Stacey Campfield that allows a man to stop child support payments after learning the child was fathered by someone else.

Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, said the bill is a matter of simple fairness. As amended, it does not apply in some situations - for example, when the child has been legally adopted by the man paying support."

Would it not be fair to suggest that the opponents of this bill are "in favor of" women financially shafting men by fathering children with other men and forcing someone else to pay for them?