Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), a staunch opponent of net neutrality, now faces a 10-point deficit in midterm pre-election polls.
It now appears that net neutrality will become a critically important factor in the midterm elections. One early indicator is coming from a staunchly anti-net neutrality candidate who is suddenly struggling to get re-elected.
The candidate in question is Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, who is attempting to move from the House of Representatives to the Senate. Blackburn is fighting for the seat of vacating Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who has spoken sharply against President Trump and his shifting administration.
Corker has actually backed Blackburn, though Blackburn has been a strongly pro-Trump supporter. But she’s also been ardently against net neutrality, and fiercely supportive of FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Just recently, Blackburn initiated legislation that would make it illegal for individual U.S. states to enact net neutrality laws.
Already, both Washington State and Oregon have passed net neutrality legislation, with California expected to follow suit. That’s a huge problem for mega-ISPs like AT&T and Comcast, who would lose billions if forced to comply with state-by-state neutrality regulations.
Unfortunately for them, the FCC technically lacks the power to enforce a federal-level net neutrality order. All of which makes Blackburn’s proposed legislation critical.
Of course, Blackburn is heavily supported by campaign donations from big broadband providers, including AT&T. Many would say Blackburn has been ‘purchased’ by them.
In fact, there are few legislators more beholden to major ISP donations than Blackburn. “While competition for the telecom corruption crown is fierce, it’s hard to find a politician more beholden to big ISPs than Blackburn,” noted Karl Bode in Motherboard.
“Blackburn has hoovered up telecom sector campaign cash for years, then loyally and routinely opposed every and any effort to hold uncompetitive telecom giants accountable for anti-competitive behavior and poor service.”
But that loyalty could be coming at a very serious price. According to a pre-election poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University, Blackburn is trailing her opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen, by 10 points. That’s an incredibly large deficit given that Trump easily won Tennessee’s popular vote by 26 percentage points.
In fact, Tennessee is such a heavily Republican state, it’s almost unthinkable that a candidate like Blackburn is trailing so dramatically in a pre-election poll. Even against a popular Democratic ex-Governor.
The MTSU poll found that a disproportionate number of independents were voting for Bredesen. But a surprising 20 percent of Republicans reported that they’d be voting for the Democrat. Just 5 percent of Democrats indicated a preference for Blackburn in the poll.
Exactly how Blackburn’s unflagging support for companies like Comcast is contributing to the deficit is unclear.
But there’s little question where Blackburn’s loyalties remain when it comes to issues like internet access and privacy. “You’d be hard pressed to find a single instance where Blackburn has stood up to incumbent providers during her 16-year tenure in the House,” Bode continued.
“Blackburn is particularly loyal to AT&T, whose stranglehold over countless state legislatures sometimes teeters on the comical.”
That includes sneaking pro-ISP laws into unrelated bills, including those that prevent municipalities from building their own broadband networks. Now, that sort of behavior could cost candidates like Blackburn their jobs.