I was sitting with Bill Spurlock, who has been a lifelong friend, and I asked him what was the difference between him and any other politician. Knowing Bill has been in the military for 34 years, I still wasn’t ready for what he said: "I guess that when shots are fired, most people will run away but a long time ago I learned to run towards them. I believe problems are much easier to handle that way."
Bill had just moved back to Chattanooga when he raised some eyebrows by picking up election papers to run for Congress. With little experience in politics, he is a conservation Republican running against Chuck Fleischmann, a career politician who has been the Congressman for Tennessee’s Third District since 2011. I am not alone in the belief that it’s a toss-up between Fleischmann and Scott DesJjarlais (R-Jasper) who is the most ineffective member of a United States Congress that, as a political body, has a 20 percent approval rating from the American people.
For the last four years Fleischmann has gone by the nickname of "Do Nothing Chuck" and the Tennessee Republican Party, as dysfunctional as the bankrupt countries of Belarus and Jamaica, cannot understand why we seethe at the lack of worthy candidates. Never before has America needed leadership and Bill, who just retired a Major in the Army, has no doubt he can bring order to our national chaos.
"I’m a conservative, a Christian and believe in the Republican principles but where I differ the most from Rep. Fleischmann is this: I am on the Republican ticket but the very second I am elected, I’ll switch from being a Republican to become a ‘Tennessean.’ Conservatives in our state will love me but the day I’m elected will be the best thing that could happen to Democrats and any other citizens in the Third District.
"I’ve done three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and, let me tell you, there is no better classroom than a fire-fight because you thank God for every single soldier. Black, white, college degree or high school drop-out … I’m responsible for every single one … and that’s the kind of elected servant I want to be."
Bill, a product of Baylor where he was an outstanding athlete, got his degree from UTC "a little piece-meal "because I was deployed a lot. I was determined to be a college graduate because it is so important to learn, and get it right, in order to be successful, either as an Army officer, a cyber expert, a chef in a restaurant … whatever.
"I don’t mean to make a big deal out of my life in the military but so much of what I’ve done I knew people’s lives depended on it. Man, that changes how you look at everything," he said over breakfast. "I kinda like helping people, making things happen, and that’s why I am running for Congress. I can provide leadership and I’ve been greatly encouraged because people know it’s lacking in Washington."
At best, Spurlock is a longshot. He lacks name recognition and got a late start in the race. "I was on a medical hold," he said, his back full of titanium after too many night assaults. "I knew I wanted to get going but a soldier can’t run for office. I feel fine but the Army wanted to be sure I would be okay. You get immediate care when you are active military.
"Being an underdog or ‘last in the race’ doesn’t bother me at all. I want to work like crazy every day until the August election and I am finding a lot of veterans are meeting me with open arms. I love rural Tennessee – what can we do to get more broadband? How can we better education? I’m a firm believer in early childhood development … I have a three-year-old and the little guy is smart!"
Asked about education at the so-called poverty schools, Spurlock said some rural counties are struggling, too, and he’s all-about year-round school and pre-K development. Mental health is "a serious issue" with depression at a race-horse pace. "There are so many areas that I don’t believe are addressed," he shook his head.
Staring at his coffee cup, he paused and said, "I am going to tell you a secret. Do you know what the most untapped source of power in Tennessee is? I’m going to tell you because I know this is true. We’ve got to talk to each other because you would be shocked at the answers we can find for problems. I am serious.
"The way it works is that sometimes, instead of doing it ‘my way,’ I’ll get the whole platoon to look at ‘our’ problem. What you’ll learn is your ‘team’ has some fabulous ideas. Then, as the leader, I implement ‘our’ solution and, with everybody eager to make it work, you can accomplish any problem there is. That’s what leaders do."
And that’s why Bill Spurlock can change the way we do things if he can just get the chance. Before you brush him off, the voters of District Three should listen to this man carefully because, in my mind, what we got right now ain’t working.