Bill, congratulations on your election as our state’s next governor. I followed with great interest both the primary and the general election in which you ran. Our political stories are remarkably similar in some respects, and I hope you will find this particular thought most helpful going forward.
Our political experiences are similar in a number of ways. I was a political outsider and it was clear to voters that I professed to be a Christian. But there is a particular similarity that leads to this bit of advice.
You’ve been quoted as saying that you were speaking one evening with your wife, Maria, about the need to respond to the advertisements that had begun to attack your political views. Her comment was, “I don’t think you should go down that road.”
Her advice became the tagline of the television ad that was your response. I remember watching it and calling my wife to say, “I just saw Bill’s response to the ads running against him, and I think it won the election for him.”
But the reason I find your story about Maria so compelling is that within four months of my election, in my very first legislative session, I was confronted with a huge local issue that, for its success, required enabling legislation at the state level. Every prominent member of my community called me in support of the legislation.
Technically, the legislation would not have violated any of my campaign promises, but it sure violated the spirit of one of them. It would have allowed local governments to do what I said I would not do. I agonized over what to do and whether I could somehow rationalize supporting the legislation because I would not be committing a direct and immediate violation of my campaign promise.
So, I did what you did. I went to my best friend and confidant, the person on earth I trusted most to be “for” me, my wife. I do not say that to demean my parents and their support for me. I thank God for their support since birth. But Linda had chosen to make a vow to me before God that transcended biological kinship relations and, at that point, she best knew who I then was at my core and why I had run in the first place.
I explained to her how I could technically vote for the legislation and then told her the names of those who had called me and how, as the politically and financially powerful people of our community, they were in a position to make or break me in my next election.
She listened, and then said, “I don’t remember the names of any of the people you mentioned supporting your campaign.”
I said, “Well, you’re right. They didn’t.”
Then, according to Proverbs 27:6, she most graciously and kindly gave me that “wound” which only the most faithful friend is willing to give, not for my hurt, but for my good: “Well, you won didn’t you? Just do what you think is the right thing.”
That settled it. She was right. Before God, I would not do indirectly what I had promised not to do directly.
I voted no. I also never had a political opponent during my second and third reelection campaigns.
Bill, over the next few weeks, you will be filling your cabinet and deciding who will be on your personal staff. These people will be very important, but I would remind you of what Solomon said, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11 NKJV).
So, this is my advice: When your supporters, financial and otherwise, would pull and tug you into opposing irreconcilable positions or a member of your cabinet and staff recommends something that causes a hesitancy in your spirit, go to Maria.
She was given to you by God and she has already proven her worth in rubies is far greater than any kind of contribution anyone made to your campaign or will make to your success in office.
And, by the way, Maria, I’m praying for you, too.
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David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as president in 2006.