Fincher sworn in as congressman
Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 6:44 am
By: Glenda Caudle, Special Features Editor
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
He’s the self-described “hired help” for Tennessee’s Eighth Congressional District. Republican U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump — Crockett County farmer and gospel music singer — was sworn in Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony that began just past the midday point in the nation’s capital.
Just minutes before he left his new Washington office to enter the House chamber and to initiate a new phase in his life, Fincher placed a call to The Messenger and talked about his plans.
“I will never forget home,” he began. “We were sent up here by the American people and I was sent by the Eighth Congressional District by Democrats and Republicans and Independents to serve the people. I’m here to work for home. I’m the hired help of the Eighth District.”
Fincher, who announced his candidacy for the seat held by long-time Congressman and Democrat John Tanner on Sept. 22, 2009, said a group of 40-50 family members, friends and supporters traveled to Washington, D.C., to celebrate his new job.
Local supporters say they felt a special pride in their new congressman when they recalled he and his wife, Lynn, had scheduled a visit with Obion County Republicans at the Obion County Public Library on the evening of the day his official entry into the race for the reliably Democratic seat was made public.
With encouragement from Eighth District voters disenchanted by the “change” introduced by President Obama and concerned over Tanner’s support for some of the chief executive’s initiatives, Fincher stepped into the ring with high hopes of eventually battling the long-serving Obion County resident for the seat.
A few months later, Tanner announced his intention to retire and a scramble among Democrats hoping to fill his position followed, with state Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden emerging as the victor.
Meanwhile, Fincher was facing formidable opposition in the August primary from former Obion Countian and Jackson physician Dr. Ron Kirkland, with Dr. George Flinn of Shelby County and Jackson businessman Randy Smith also vying for the seat. Fincher emerged the GOP standard bearer and went on to battle Herron and Independent Donn Janes, claiming victory in the November general election, when Obion County showed their support for the newcomer by awarding him 5,363 votes to Herron’s 3,726. District-wide, Fincher claimed 59 percent of the vote (98,483) to the Democrats’ choice, who registered 38 percent (64,701).
Fincher’s victory was echoed across the Volunteer State, where the GOP broke the Democrat hold on power in Washington and in Nashville. Before the night was over, he found himself one of the 60-plus new Republican representatives who had wrested authority from Democrats based on their pledge to change the “change” promised Americans just two years before.
Obama would refer to the election later as a “shellacking” for his party.
Conservative-leaning Americans and Independents wait to see how their voter mandate will play out in fact.
On Wednesday, Fincher joined 95 other freshman representatives in the 112th Congress of the United States, as well as 339 veteran congressmen returning to their seats, in a mass swearing-in ceremony officiated by the newly-elected Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio). Later, Fincher posed for a photo with Boehner in the Rayburn Room, across from the House chamber, where members get the opportunity to memorialize the important event one-on-one.
In his pre-swearing in contact with The Messenger, Fincher emphasized that he recognizes his new position is a serious one.
“The people of America and the Eighth District have told us they want transparency in Washington. They want to know what we are doing here. They’re tired of the shell games they think they’ve been subjected to and they just want transparency. I think you’ll see that in this Congress. Speaking for myself, I plan to have an effective outreach program all across this district. I’ll be coming home most every weekend and I’ll be in touch. I want to work through local newspapers — maybe with a column about what’s going on in Washington — and I’m going to be aggressive about communicating. That’s a big part of my job.”
Fincher added he expected to be asked to begin voting on the business of the people right away. Congressmen were to take up some votes on rules later in the afternoon Wednesday.
However, the new congressman’s first opportunity to express his will in Washington came before he was even officially sworn in. Soon after completing his back-home conversation with The Messenger, Fincher was summoned to the House chamber and listened for his name to be called by the House Reading Clerk. Although he had not been officially sworn in, he did have the authority to express the will of the electorate of Tennessee’s Eighth Congressional District at that point.
It was a pivotal moment in the chamber and Fincher’s first opportunity to deliver a message from his constituents.
He did so by rising as his name was called and selecting Republican John Boehner — rather than Democrat Nancy Pelosi — as his choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America.
Published in The Messenger 1.6.11