- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) - Incumbent U.S. Rep. Diane Black isn’t going to let a barrage of attacks from her challenger go unreturned in the Republican primary campaign for Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District.

Black in a campaign speech Tuesday specifically turned back claims by former state Rep. Joe Carr that she had had a hand in redrawing the district to exclude him and that she received contributions from special interest groups.

“It is the state that draws the lines for the district; it’s not the Congress. I don’t get a say in it, guys,” she said. “And by the way, my opponent was serving in the General Assembly when then lines were drawn and never had a problem with it.”

Black’s campaign has also sent out mailers hitting Carr for seeking five different political offices in four years and for living outside the 6th District that stretches north and east from the Nashville suburbs.

Black’s direct approach differs from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who two years ago largely chose to ignore Carr during the Senate primary.

Alexander, a former governor and two-time presidential candidate, ended up losing most of Middle Tennessee to his little-known and underfunded opponent in that race, and ended up winning the primary race by a much closer-than-expected 9 percentage points.

Black said her comments Tuesday were in response to fliers sent out by her opponent and by questions raised by constituents she’s spoken to at early voting sites.

“Listen, these are my supporters in here and they’ve been asking me about some things they’ve been seeing,” Black told reporters after the event. “So I thought I’d address it with my base here.”

As for her own mailers targeting Carr, Black said those are “part of the campaign.”

“I don’t think that that’s anything I twisted the truth on, so we’re just putting that out there,” she said.

Carr spokesman Jeremy Hayes said the campaign is “not at all surprised that Diane Black is attacking us,” arguing that it’s a sign of Carr’s momentum in the district.

Hayes also said the redistricting issue is important because Carr lived in the 6th District for 30 years before it was redrawn after the 2010 Census. Carr still lives within 5 miles of the new district boundaries.

“Just because the political lines have been redrawn doesn’t mean that Joe no longer identifies with the values and principles of the 6th District,” he said.

Carr has also criticized Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for hosting a fundraiser for Black at the governor’s mansion in Nashville on Thursday, saying it illustrates “establishment politics.”

“The taxpayers of Tennessee should be able to expect a higher standard from their governor,” Carr said in a release. “Unfortunately, Diane Black is no stranger to crony establishment politics.”

Tuesday’s campaign event featured an appearance by South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Benghazi Committee. Gowdy urged supporters to turn out in force for Black, who serves on the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means.

“You have a member of Congress, who is both liked and respected - which are two different things, by the way - by both her friends and her adversaries,” he said. “I can’t imagine serving without her.”

Black downplayed the importance of having a strong showing against Carr in deciding whether to mount a gubernatorial bid to succeed the term-limited Haslam in 2018.

“I’m running for re-election to Congress,” she said. “I’ll run one race at a time.”

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