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Black Fires Candidate Attack Ad in Tenn. Gov Race

Matt Markgraf
Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black speaking at a candidate forum in Martin, Tennessee.

Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black is labeling businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee as moderates in the first Tennessee gubernatorial race attack ad by a candidate's campaign.

In an ad released this week, Black's campaign says Boyd has called her too conservative, referencing Boyd's comments that Republicans could lose in November if Black is nominated.

The ad says Boyd disavowed then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, referencing a Nashville Post story that cites a CNN report about how Boyd indicated he wasn't fundraising for Trump. Boyd, who was at a Mitt Romney event, also didn't specifically criticize Trump in the report. Boyd has since campaigned as pro-Trump and has compared himself to the president.

The ad also says Boyd backed a 2012 county property tax increase proposal and called himself a moderate in 2015, citing news stories.

The campaign for Boyd, a former state economic development commissioner, didn't respond to a request for comment about the line of attacks.

The ad goes on to criticize Lee's $500 donation to the 2015 campaign of ex-Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, a onetime prominent Democrat who resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to felony theft in an affair with her then-bodyguard.

The Lee campaign said it's confident that Tennesseans will see through Black's attack ad.

"It's not surprising Congresswoman Black is launching this desperate attack; it's what career politicians do when their campaigns are failing," Lee campaign spokesman Chris Burger said.

In 2004, Lee donated $1,000 to former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's 2006 re-election campaign. Lee also gave $1,000 in 2006 to Bredesen's Republican opponent, Jim Bryson. Bredesen is now running for U.S. Senate in a hotly contested race in which he's expected to face Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

"Bill Lee has said repeatedly that like President Trump, businessmen have to make business decisions in their donations from time to time, and this was one of those times," Burger, the Lee campaign spokesman, said of Lee's contribution to Bredesen.

Lee heads Lee Company, which provides services ranging from construction to plumbing and does some contract work for the state.

GOP candidate House Speaker Beth Harwell isn't mentioned in Black's ad.

A third-party group fueled by a Boyd donor has previously attacked Black in TV and radio advertising. Otherwise, there had been little else in the way of attacks in the GOP contest.

On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh have clashed somewhat during a recent candidate forum and a debate.

Early voting starts on July 13 and the primary election is Aug. 2.

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