PHOTO: Former First Lady of Tennessee Andrea Conte embraces a supporter during the voter rally in Franklin on Monday. / Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Wife of U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and former First Lady of Tennessee, Andrea Conte, spoke during a Women for Bredesen voting rally Monday evening in Franklin. Held just a day before the nationwide voter registration deadline of Tuesday, Conte urged Tennesseans to register, calling the American institution of voting a “shining example of equality.”
“We live in a country that aims for equality,” Conte said. “We don’t always get there, but we really strive for equal opportunity, equal respect and equal justice, and voting is a shining example of equality. A vote counts the same if a billionaire checks the box, or if someone making minimum wage checks the box. In the voting booth, we are all equal.”
Other speakers at the rally were Democratic candidate for District 61 in the Tennessee House of Representatives, Rebecca Purington, and Democratic candidate for District 23 in the Tennessee Senate, Kristen Grimm. Making introductions and hosting the rally was Chairman of the Williamson County Democratic Party, Holly McCall.
“She’s a true, steel magnolia,” McCall said about Conte. “When she was First Lady of Tennessee, she walked 600 miles around our state, raising awareness and funds for child advocacy centers. She’s such a great advocate, and she also is a tireless defender of victims of violent crime.”
McCall thanked Conte for her continued work in victim advocacy. Conte currently still serves on the board of You Have the Power, a victims of abuse advocacy organization founded by the former First lady 25 years ago.
On Monday, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift came out in support of Bredesen via a social media post, writing that Bredesen’s opponent, Marsha Blackburn, has a voting record that “appalls and terrifies” her. Conte praised the support, calling her “amazing.”
“She’s an amazing artist, but she’s strong, she’s determined, she’s confident and she’s very intelligent,” Conte said. “It’s an honor to have that kind of endorsement.”
Conte spoke about Tennessee’s voting records in the past, which she considers to have been less than ideal. During the 2014 elections, Tennessee ranked 40th in the county for voter registration, and ranked 50th in voter turnout – the single worst turnout for a state in the country.
“We’re all aware of this deep partisan divide in our country, and it’s just critical we find some common ground and restore stability,” Conte said. “I think we can do that, but it really takes all of us.”